Brazilian tribe plagued by alcoholism and depression after losing its ancestral land to biofuel farmers has one of the world’s highest suicide rates
- Guarani tribe faces a suicide rate at least 34 times the national average
- Cause due to the loss of ancestral lands and constant attacks by gunmen
- The majority of the victims are between 15 and 29-years-old – one was just 9
- Camp in Dourados has a murder rate 50 percent higher than that of Iraq
A Brazilian tribe has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, it has been revealed.
According to Survival International’s figures, the Guarani tribe has a suicide rate at least 34 times the national average due to the loss of their ancestral lands and constant attacks by gunmen.
Figures reveal that, on average, at least one Guarani has committed suicide every week since the start of this century.
The Guarani community, whose total population in Brazil is estimated at 46,000, have been trying to recover a small portion of their original territories, but face violent resistance from wealthy ranchers as well as soya and sugar cane plantation owners.
They are Indians are forced to live in dangerous and squalid conditions on road-sides or in overcrowded reserves and face malnutrition, poor health and alcoholism.
According to Brazil’s Health Ministry, 56 Guarani Indians committed suicide in 2012, although the actual figures are believed to have been higher but may not have been reported.
Almost all are hangings, with ropes, belts or cloth, reports the Guardian.
The latest victim, on Wednesday, whose name has yet to be released, was a 17-year-old girl.
The youngest recorded victim was just nine, although the majority of the victims are between 15 and 29-years-old.
Rosalino Ortiz, a Guarani man, told the not-for-profit organisation: ‘The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free; now we are no longer free.
‘So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Thousands of Guarani are now crammed together in camps – one camp in Dourados now has a murder rate that is more than 50 percent higher than that of Iraq, reports the Guardian.
Brazil’s indigenous activists last week protested outside Congress in Brasilia against a constitutional reform that would transfer from the executive branch to legislators authority to approve and demarcate native lands and environmental conservation parks.
The Justice Ministry subsequently forwarded a legal finding to the House of Deputies, slamming the amendment.
‘We believe this measure is not only ill-timed and inappropriate, but also unconstitutional,’ said Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo.
‘The demarcation of Guarani land should have been completed many years ago, but the process has stalled,’ Survival said.
It urged the Brazilian government ‘to demarcate Guarani lands as a matter of urgency’ and pressed US agribusiness giant Bunge and other such firms ‘to stop buying sugar cane from Guarani land.’
Roughly 12 percent of Brazil’s land currently is recognized as indigenous territory.
Native Indians grouped in 305 tribes represent less than 0.5 percent of the more than 200 million Brazilians.
World Mental Health Day, a United Nations-backed initiative, is held on October 10 each year to raise awareness about mental health issues worldwide.
Survival International is calling on the Brazilian government to demarcate Guarani lands as a matter of urgency and is urging companies such as the US’s Bunge to stop buying sugar cane from Guarani land.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This is a stark and heart-breaking reminder of the devastation that land theft wreaks on tribal peoples. Sadly, the Guarani are not a unique case – indigenous peoples worldwide often suffer far higher rates of suicide than the majority population. So-called ‘progress’ often destroys tribal peoples but in this case the solution is clear: demarcate the Guarani’s land, before more innocent lives are lost.’
In 2012 the entire tribe vowed to commit mass suicide after a court in Brazil ruled they must leave what they believe is sacred land.